When Crosby, Stills and Nash took the stage at Woodstock in August of 1969, would anyone have guessed that it would be 8 more years before trio recorded an album together? Sure they released the landmark, Deja Vu in early 1970, but that was with Neil Young touring them into a quartet. And any time you add Neil to a drink, it’s stronger and darker. Besides CSN won the new artist Grammy in 1969, not CSNY. People wanted to sway and smile to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, not be filled with fear and paranoia with Ohio.
All kidding aside, CSN was in a great position to conquer the folk rock world and instead splintered in many subsets – Crosby-Nash, Stills-Young, Stills, Manassass. And David Crosby was embarked on a drug-fueled lifestyle that would only come to light in the early 80s. These guys just needed to get together before it was too late and chill. Which is what they did in 1977 with the CSN LP and its lead off track, Just A Song Before I Go. They even posed on a boat for the album cover, just to let you it was smooth sailing from here on out (of course, it was anything, but).
This 45, written by Graham Nash, has to be one of the saddest to ever hit the Top 10. It makes Along Again (Naturally) come off like Disco Duck. I always found it to be a heartbreaking song and thankfully it ends just after 2 minutes. But they pack a lot in that 2 minutes, a couple of choruses, verse and 2 guitar solos.
Maybe I connect to something deeper in my life, someone who left who didn’t come back, either physically or emotionally. I still have this image of hearing the song as a backdrop to an early morning, when it’s cold and still dark out, but you’re trying to get ready for the day in spite of wanting to stay and keep warm.
I think the reason why it became CSN’s biggest hit, outside of fans welcoming them back, is the fact that we all leave or get left by someone or something at some point in our lives. And regardless of which party feels the hurt more, it’s never easy to say goodbye, but truly the pain is in the fear of permanence that goodbye may be. After 35 years of living with this song I’ve only recently found out why it was written – a dare. Graham had some time to kill before he went to the airport and back on tour, so he sat down at the piano and quickly wrote about the next hour of his life at that point, literally. Graham’s pack his suitcase, gonna be taken to the airport, go through security and fly United (the friendly skies, I assume. Of course if he’s traveling twice the speed of sound, maybe he booked his ticket on Yeager Air)
I listened to it again with this knowledge and it still has this melancholy sadness that hits me deeply. Maybe Graham had tons of emotions that he needed to write down and record. Maybe he was saying farewell to happiness or so long to a friend. Maybe he was writing about what happened in 1970 when the group fell apart. All I know is that he needed Stills & Crosby back with him so that he could say goodbye once again.